I have always been creative, growing up with artistic parents and engineers and inventors on my maternal side. However, I never thought I would make a living from it (I’m still waiting!).
I developed M.E. in 1987 in the first year of my ‘A’ levels and had to take a year out. After 6 months I felt better and a graphic designer friend invited me to do some work experience with him. He advised me to go to art college instead of returning to ‘A’ levels.
I did a Foundation course and then 2 years in Spacial Design at Portsmouth College of Art. I did intend to go onto an HND in model making but the M.E. got bad again and I couldn’t move away from home. I carried on designing, doing voluntary design work for the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth, as well as other things for friends and family.
Then at Christmas 1997 I had my first panic attack, which quickly developed into full agoraphobia, where I would even panic putting my shoes on, as that meant going out the front door. My whole life stopped and my world closed into the 4 walls that surrounded me. Over time I learnt to cope with the condition, managing to get out, and I helped my parents in a craft shop in Bosham, West Sussex, making wooden toys and other wooden crafts.
In 2003 the agoraphobia returned worse than before which meant that I couldn’t travel at all. It took a long time but eventually I managed to get out the house and walk around the local streets. So much so that I was able to join a painting group at the local community centre, forcing myself to get out each week.
My confidence slowly grew, I built up a body of work and I decided to do Hampshire Open Studios at home in 2007. Jonathan Parsons from ARC, Aspex Gallery came one day and gave me an informal one-to-one session. He was very encouraging and told me to carry on what I was doing and to come along to the new Aspex Gallery when it opened later that year. I attended the first ARC event, sitting in a corner, not talking to anybody and trying not to run out from panic. I survived and attended numerous ARC events, soaking up all the information and contacts I could.
In 2008 I applied for the Art Space Portsmouth Sponsored Studio Award. I didn’t get it but was given a year’s free membership to ASP. I also applied to be part of Dada-South’s Dada Exchange programme, which teamed people up with other artists with disabilities to be their mentors for a year. I was teamed up with Jon Adams, who remains a good friend and mentor to this day.
In September 2008 a studio sub-let at Art Space Portsmouth came up and I jumped at the chance. Sally Taylor’s Studio 12 became my home for 8 months and I think I created some of my best work in this wonderful space (see Unique gallery). After another brief sub-let I managed to get my first permanent studio and in 2011 moved into my present studio.
Over the years I have used my art and exhibitions to push myself into the outside world, and have been lucky enough to get work in a number of national exhibitions. Only just being able to travel by car, but not by public transport yet, my work has traveled further than I have. One day I hope to catch up!
Who knows where I go from here, but I know it will be my art that gets me out there.